Low-Cost Internet and Cell Phone Programs in the US

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Staying connected to the internet and having a reliable cell phone plan are more important than ever. It’s how we keep in touch with loved ones, access important information, and even apply for jobs. But the cost of these necessities can be overwhelming. Fortunately, free or low-cost programs are available to qualified applicants. In this article, we’ll explore some programs offering free or affordable internet and cell phone plans and how you can qualify for them.

Next, we will answer the following questions:

  1. What programs offer free or affordable internet access? 
  2. Who is eligible to apply for these programs?
  3. Is there a deadline to apply for these programs? 
  4. What free or low-cost phone plan programs are available? 
  5. What are the eligibility requirements for these phone plans?
  6. Is it considered a public charge to receive this help?

What programs offer free or affordable internet access?

Several programs in the United States offer free or low-cost internet access to eligible households. Here are a few examples, along with their eligibility requirements and deadlines to apply: 

  • Affordable connectivity program (ACP): The Affordable Connectivity Program provides eligible households free or low-cost broadband internet access. The program provides up to $50 per month to help with internet bills and up to $100 towards purchasing a device such as a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. To be eligible for the ACP, households must meet certain income criteria. They must have at least one member participating in a federal assistance program (such as SNAP, Medicaid, Lifeline, or WIC). There is no deadline to apply, as the ACP is a long-term government program. For more information on how to apply, click here
  • Lifeline Program: Lifeline is a federal program dedicated to making internet service more affordable for low-income households. This benefit provides eligible consumers with a monthly discount of up to $9.25 on internet service. Eligibility varies by state, but generally, individuals who participate in certain federal assistance programs or have low incomes (at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines) can enroll. People who live on federally recognized Tribal lands may also qualify. Click here to find out if you are eligible. 
  • PCs for People: PCs for People is a non-profit organization that offers affordable refurbished computers and low-cost, high-speed internet to eligible customers. To qualify, you must participate in a government-based assistance program or have a household income below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. To apply, click here.  
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: Many public libraries, schools, and community centers provide free Wi-Fi access to the public. Some internet service providers also offer free Wi-Fi hotspots in certain areas. This can be a convenient option for temporary or public internet access. To find your local public library, click here

These are just a few examples of programs that offer free or low-cost internet access to eligible households. It’s important to research and compare the options available to find the best program that works for you.

What free or low-cost phone plan programs are available?

In addition to affordable internet access, programs in the United States provide free or low-cost phone plans to eligible individuals. Here are some examples, along with their eligibility requirements and benefits.

  • Assurance Wireless: Assurance Wireless is a federal assistance program that provides eligible low-income customers free monthly data, unlimited texting, free monthly minutes, and a free phone. This plan is part of the Affordable connectivity program (ACP). Enrollment is available to individuals who qualify based on federal or state-specific eligibility criteria. For more information, click here
  • Lifeline Program: The Lifeline Program provides a monthly discount on phone services for eligible low-income households. The discount varies depending on the state and the service provider. The eligibility requirements are the same as the Lifeline internet program: have an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines, participate in certain federal assistance programs, or live on federally recognized Tribal lands.
  • Tello: Tello Mobile is an affordable prepaid cell phone service provider that operates on T-Mobile’s network. Their pre-built plans start at $10 per month, including unlimited talk and text. While Tello does not have specific eligibility requirements, it is a good option for those seeking an affordable prepaid phone plan.

Is it considered a public charge to receive this help?

No, receiving free phone or internet service through the Lifeline Program or other government assistance programs is not considered a public charge. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stated that using government benefits like Lifeline will not negatively impact an individual’s ability to obtain a green card or become a U.S. citizen. If you have more questions about public charge and your eligibility for government benefits, it’s recommended to consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative.

Mitzi Colin Lopez is a Digital Ads Content Creator and Experimenter at Noticias Para Inmigrantes. Her origin as a Mexican immigrant characterizes and drives her to empower the Latinx, Hispanic and immigrant communities. She is a recent graduate of West Chester University, where she obtained her bachelor’s in Political Science and Spanish. Her passions include social justice, advocacy, hiking, traveling, and weightlifting.